I am looking for a component that I can drop into a circuit that will replace the functionality of a physical switch so that I can control it via computer, preferably via a standard interface (USB or PCI).

The switch will eventually need to be controllable via a .net application.

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Check these:

BUT! Don't forget to check if the provided relays are suited to your application voltage/power. If not you should couple a suitable relay.

I suppose you'll be able to load the DLL in your .net application and connect to them right away. Otherwise you could end up writing your own driver (usually these devices are listed in your OS as serial port devices making it fairly easy to connect to them directly and use the command set they provide).

Googling for "USB IO kit" or "USB relay" will give you many more options.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Both these devices appear as serial COM ports so they are controllable without any special drivers or DLLs. Just use System.IO.Ports.SerialPort from .NET \$\endgroup\$ – MikeJ-UK Jan 27 '12 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeJ-UK, to my knowledge serial over USB takes a driver of some sort, FTDI distributes their with windows, and others companies have varying methods of distribution, so the drivers are not always there. Am I mistaken? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jan 27 '12 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk - You're right about FTDI's drivers. I made a general comment about a specific product (which uses FTDI's chips!!). In general you don't need a custom driver to support serial over USB - Windows has a built-in Communications Device Class protocol driver which will do this (usbser.sys). \$\endgroup\$ – MikeJ-UK Jan 27 '12 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeJ-UK, I assumed it did, but I thought others, as well as myself, could use some verification. TI has their own chips that do USB to Serial and you need drivers, they were no end of headache. Thanks for specifying, I appreciate it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jan 27 '12 at 13:57

If you're looking for an interface to generate signals into a board there is this company, FTDI, that I've discovered being specialized in USB interfaces (one of the first Google results); they also make USB to JTAG interfaces for programming microcontrollers, that's what I've used.

You could use an IC, such as this that handles the USB interfaces and gives out 8 GPIO pins to do what do you want.

Also TexasInstruments has some products, but if you just look for a microcontroller with USB interface you will find thousands.

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